Ranking the 2017 Kentucky Derby® Contenders

Posted by Darragh Farrelly on Wed, Nov 30, 2016

“The Most Exciting Two Minutes In Sports” takes place on the first Saturday of every May. America’s biggest horse race, where a nation comes to a standstill, “The Run of The Roses” is the first leg of the Triple Crown™, and an opportunity for the country’s best three-year-old thoroughbreds to etch their name into immortality.

For the fifth consecutive year, a tiered points system will determine which 20 horses will qualify for America’s greatest race. A total of 35 races will be included in the “Road to the Derby” series, 19 of which run over the two-year-old season and early three-year-old, with the remaining 16 comprising the “Kentucky Derby Championship Series” which takes place over the 10 weeks that precede the Derby.

The Protagonists

Classic Empire. In the eyes of many, the horse that the rest of them must beat. The half-brother of 2015 Triple Crown™ winner American Pharoah, the winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Classic Empire will look to become the second horse in successive years to win the Juvenile and go on to win the Kentucky Derby®. Though he does not possess the blistering turn of foot of American Pharoah, he is at the head of the field at this present time.

Practical Joke. With two Grade 1 steaks wins in his two-year-old season, doubts perhaps remain over the Chad Brown-trained colt’s ability to be a real contender over the longer 1 ¼ mile distance in the Derby. He showed a lot of heart in finishing third behind Classic Empire in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, but will need to improve on his most recent showings if he harbors any hopes of claiming the Run of the Roses.

Before his start in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, he was previously undefeated in five starts. Like Practical Joke, doubts linger over his ability to stay the full 1 ¼ miles – his sire Gone Astray never raced further than nine furlongs. The experience in racing against the highest level of competition at Santa Anita Park in the Breeders’ Cup will do him wonders, and he will be one to keep an eye on between now and the start date of Saturday May 6, 2017.

Lookin At Lee. Consistency has been the order of the day for this Steve Asmussen-trained two-year-old thus far in his career. 2nd in the Iroqouis Stakes and 4th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, all the indicators point to Lookin At Lee improving as a three-year-old. His sire, Lookin At Lucky, finished 2nd in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, then as a three-year-old, finished 3rd in the Santa Anita Derby and 6th in the Kentucky Derby. Should be a leading contender.

Klimt. If this question had been posed back in September, Klimt, the son of Quality Road, probably would have been at the head of the discussion following an impressive display in the Del Mar Futurity, which assured him entrance to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. There, he flattered to deceive, finishing a disappointing 8th. However, he comes from a strong pedigree and with trainer Bob Baffert on his side who’s won the Derby four times, would be naïve to leave him out of the reckoning at this point.

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